Nosh: Seattle’s Best Fish & Chips, Bar None


It was a year ago almost to the day that my wife declared the fish and chips served by Nosh as the best ever she’s had in the States. When I sampled the fish, I couldn’t have agreed more. The thing is, Nosh is a food truck and the venue was the Crossroads Food Truck Snackdown. Since then, accolades have been piling up for Nosh, including an endorsement by the Seattle Times as the best chippy in town. Similar praise came from other publications.

Today, we happened to be in the Westlake Center area in downtown Seattle when we saw Nosh among a few other trucks in the plaza outside.

nosh - 1

The fish and chips is made in the British-style, which as far as I can gather means mild white fish coated in a light, thin batter made from flour, beer, water and seasonings and served in a newspaper cone over thick-cut fries.

Nosh’s batter, made with a local microbrew’s pilsner, is very thin and crispy, sprinkled lightly with sea salt, a far cry from the thick and oily batters that are more common these days. The star though is the almost foot-long Pacific cod that flakes apart so easily and is so moist that it seems caught only hours before. Couple the fish with an excellent tartar sauce and perfectly cooked, thick-cut fries that likely have been double-fried. A side of very good minted peas is also included. The fish and chips (☆☆☆☆) are decidedly superior to what I’ve had at any other restaurant, stand or truck, including Ivar’s, Spuds, Wally’s and Nordstrom Cafe. The only thing faux about the entrée is the ‘newspaper’ in which it’s served, a clever reproduction on parchment paper.

Nosh has Seattle’s best fish and chips—bar none.

(Update: 6-13-16) With fish and chips so good, it would be easy not to order anything else. Nosh shows up in Bellevue every Monday at the downtown Barnes & Noble parking lot. (Validated parking for 1 hour.) At the noon hour, every truck in the pod was busy with customers, some who drove here, most who walked over from their nearby workplace. Even when Nosh’s line is ten deep, it doesn’t take long to get your food. Obviously, the two-person crew inside has the process down pretty well. Today, I decided to give another entrée a try—meatloaf sandwich. I’ll say this, if it weren’t for the fish, this sandwich could easily bring Nosh accolades on its own. I have yet to try Seattle fried rabbit and roasted bone marrow, Nosh’s other unusual menu items.

The meatloaf is a tasty combination of pork and beef. The patty is somewhat soft, which I would have preferred to have a little more toothy substance. But it’s paired with sweet roasted tomatoes, caramelized onions, arugula, dressed with aioli and served on a toasted potato roll. What great flavors! The side of braised red cabbage is quite good, too. This is an a very good sandwich (☆☆☆½).

Nosh's meatloaf sandwich

Nosh’s meatloaf sandwich

Seattle Restaurant Week: Etta’s Seafood


Every April and October, Seattle area diners look forward to Seattle Restaurant Week. The program actually extends over a two-week period (except Fridays and Saturdays) and features many restaurants that have agreed to offer a 3-course dinner for $30 per person (and, in a few cases, two-course lunch for $15). These prices can be great values when one considers that big-name restaurants participate and offer many of their popular menu items.

So far, my wife and I have gone twice in the last week, for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Monsoon East, where we enjoyed some of our favorite dishes. For lunch on Thursday, we went to Tom Douglas’ Etta’s Seafood.

In the Tom Douglas empire, Etta’s is one of his earliest ventures, doing business since 1995. Because of its focus on serving freshly caught seafood, quality and no doubt proximity to Pike Place Market, it remains a very popular restaurant among locals and tourists alike. The two-for-15 Restaurant Week deal gets you a choice of appetizer and main course (dinner adds dessert). In our case, we shared steamed mussels and clam chowder as starters and pan-fried salmon and fish & chips for our entrées.

Not only were local mussels steamed perfectly but they were served in a superb broth, rich and slightly tart with beans that surprised with a crispy exterior (☆☆☆½).

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Penn Cove Mussels, Green Garlic Confit, White Beans, Spring Herbs

Chopped fresh clams, a few pieces gritty, and diced potatoes floated in a refined white chowder. It was also creamy, thankfully free of excessive thickness that characterize many cornstarch-y versions. A subtle flavor of bacon was imparted by bacon salt. (☆☆☆½)

ettas - 2

Creamy Clam Chowder, Bacon Salt, Parsley Oil

I wish that more restaurants would use panko for their fried fish batter like Etta’s. Personally, I find flour batter less appealing, the more thickly-applied examples having a tendency of soak up more oil. Etta’s was nicely crispy and while the cod was very fresh, it could have benefited from more seasoning (☆☆☆). The accompanying fries and cole slaw were quite good.

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True Cod Fish And Chips, Malt Vinegar Slaw, Dill Pickle Tartar Sauce

Douglas makes a proprietary spice rub called Rub with Love, which is used primarily for salmon, and is available commercially. Etta’s preparation with wild-caught salmon (pictured at the top), which quickly became a signature dish long ago, is remarkable for its perfect balance of being smoky, sweet and herbal (☆☆☆☆).

We finished our meal with Triple Coconut Cream Pie.

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Triple Coconut Cream Pie

Etta’s Seafood
2020 Western Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
206.443.6000

 

Surprises at the Crossroads Food Truck Snackdown


The latest Food Truck Snackdown at the Crossroads Shopping Center happened today, so we were sure to see what was cookin’. Two things were on the radar for this trip.

One was a shiksa, a pork stew that was described in ZAGAT. Sandwich-style, Napkin Friends puts everything between two “slices” of latke, which suggests influences from Jewish cooking. Revealingly, there is matzoh ball soup on the menu. Even the stew’s name is a tongue-in-cheek acknowledgment of its meat ingredient as straying from the non-Jewish arena. Unfortunately, shiksa wasn’t on the menu, so I went to Peasant Food Manifesto instead and got their Inigo Montoya, a spicy tomato-based dish that is labeled a shakshuka. Hey, I recognized that name. Inigo Montoya was that famous character in “Princess Bride.” (“Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father, prepare to die.”) The other items have similarly idiosyncratic names and show PFM’s preference for global fusion food. The shakshuka had lots of tomatoes, which almost qualifies it as a tomato stew, heavy on the chard, and Spanish chorizo from by Uli’s. A fried egg was served on top. The entrée was a hearty dish, spicy and definitely healthier than fried food. (☆☆☆)

shakshuka

Peasant Food Manifesto’s shakshuka

Here’s a novelty—British-inspired food served from a food truck, appropriately named Nosh. Looking over the menu, I wasn’t sure anymore what constituted English food. Some day, I might be adventurous enough to spring for fried rabbit or roasted bone marrow, but for now, it was fish and chips, reputedly one of the best served in the Seattle area and another item that was on my list. The Pacific cod piece was enormous, the biggest we’ve eaten since New Zealand. And it was fresh, not having seen the inside of a freezer. To ensure lightness, the batter is mixed with beer, apparently a local microbrew. The result was, according to my wife, the best fish and chips she’s ever had in the States thus far. And I agree. We did differ on the chip quality slightly, but they were equally top-notch, stubby little pieces with skin still attached. Supremely flaky with very little grease on crispy, thinly applied batter, a little tub of tasty tartar sauce, this was magnificent fried fish. A side order of refreshing mint mushy peas was included, not in the least overcooked as it sounds. To add to the British air, the works were served on “newspaper,” which in reality was a clever reproduction on parchment paper. (☆☆☆☆)

Nosh's British fish and chips with mint mushy peas

Nosh’s British fish and chips with mint mushy peas

Off to the side of the truck pod was a business that was serving malasadas. Hawaii’s Donut only had three kinds, plain, raspberry and Bavarian cream. The server asked if we were Hawaiians (no, we weren’t), but we told him that we love Leonard’s in Honolulu. “Never heard of Leonard’s,” he said, a strange admission coming from a guy whose wife is Hawaiian. A look at Yelp reviews of the brick-and-mortar store in Northgate later revealed many reviewers (several of them Hawaiian and familiar with Leonard’s) who were very disappointed in the donuts. Words like “dry,” “came out of a plastic bag”, “cold” and “instructions for microwaving” were used, uncomplimentary remarks applied to any business making them on the Islands. These were all at odds with the incredible malasadas we had today, hot from frying oil, dusted to order with granulated sugar and carefully put in paper bags. Can it be that the store doesn’t have an in-house fryer while the mobile operation does? These were not comparable to Leonard’s only because they were smaller and lacked in filling variety. They were minuscule, no more than 3″ across. But they were the equal of Leonard’s otherwise, tender, puffy, hot and sweet. Both my wife and I preferred the Bavarian cream, but the malasadas with both fillings had us harking back to Kapahulu. (☆☆☆½)

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Bavarian cream and raspberry malasadas (from Hawaii's Donut)

Bavarian cream and raspberry malasadas (from Hawaii’s Donut)

Monitor Hot Rod Café (Wenatchee, WA)


I groan on those rare occasions when my GPS fails me. Give it an address in a small town or country road, and the probability is greater than zero that the unit will not be able to find it. We tried to find Anjou Bakery in Cashmere to have lunch and to eat its legendary marionberry pie, but no dice. As it turned out, it didn’t matter anyway because the bakery is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Poor planning on my part.

What to do but find the nearest diner. We saw Monitor Hot Rod Cafe across the highway. Why not? Besides, we wanted to get back on the road ASAP to Winthrop, another two hours away.

The restaurant gets points for its Route 66 ambience. Hot rod parked on the roof. Old style Texaco gas pump inside. Vintage Washington product posters lined just below the ceiling. Black-and-white “tile” linoleum on the floor.

On the surface, the menu looks no different than another roadside diner’s: burgers, hot dogs, chicken strips, fries, onion rings, fish and chips. But, look closer, and you’ll notice some modern-day tweaks, like veggie burger (called the Prius), burgers adorned with up-to-date ingredients, salad bar, garlic fries.

I admit to being a dyed-in-the-wool chilehead, which is the reason I decided to try a burger called The Burn Out. Spiciness comes from chipotle mayo and fresh halves of raw jalapeño peppers. The patty itself may have been cooked a bit too well, but the freshness of the lettuce, tomato and onion, and the tender wheat (yup, wheat, not white—either is an option) bun, with the bite from the chiles and savor from the mayo and pepper jack, was more than enough to make for an enjoyable (if much too tall) sandwich. (☆☆☆)

The Burn Out burger

The Burn Out burger

Even if the fish pieces were previously frozen, they were tender enough in my wife’s cod fish and chips, and there were a generous five pieces of them. At first, we thought the batter was extra thick, but it was quite thin and amazingly smooth. It was also too oily, or rather had a glistening sheen. (☆☆½)

The fries that accompanied them were surprising. Hand-cut, they had a nice chew with no mealiness. More than that, they were coated with something prior to frying that gave them good texture and flavor. (☆☆☆½)

Cod Fish & Chips

Cod Fish & Chips

There seems to be extra effort by the management to provide more than the usual grub that one gets at a roadside diner. Kudos to them for the effort, for the fun (and very clean) atmosphere, for the warm and friendly service. And, they serve Umpqua ice cream.

Monitor Hot Rod Cafe
2960 Easy St
Wenatchee, WA 98801
509.470.8345

Fish n’ Chips at Wally’s Chowder House (Des Moines, WA)


Fish and chips restaurants abound in the Pacific Northwest, not surprising when there’s nothing but the Pacific Ocean to the west. Perhaps the most well-known fish-n-chippery in the Seattle area is Ivar’s, once owned by Ivar Haglund whose image and personality in local circles rivaled those of Colonel Sanders. His corporation also used to fund a big fireworks show on July 4th in Elliott Bay, during its heyday one of two big shows (the other being on Lake Union). Less self-promotional and popular in the area is Spud Fish and Chips on Alki Point, though lately the quality of the Juanita franchise has definitely declined.

There are many opinions on what constitutes the best fish and chips. Some prefer thick batters, while others prefer a light coating. Should the batter be flour, cornmeal, cornstarch or a combination? Then, there’s the choice of fish. It goes without saying that the fish has to be fresh and it has to be adequately seasoned without being salty. My daughter and son-in-law swear by the version served by Nordstrom Grill (of department store fame) in Seattle, which I have yet to try. Otherwise, my wife and my favorite place is not in Seattle at all but in Christchurch, New Zealand (Coppell Place Seafood).

Last weekend, good friends of ours invited us to accompany them on their boat to the Quartermaster Yacht Club’s annual potluck, this year at the Des Moines Marina. A few of the club members mentioned Wally’s Chowder House, only a half-mile walk uptown, as an excellent place to get fish and chips. Waiting to get seated was common. When we went for lunch last Saturday, a hand-printed note at the entrance announced that Wally’s was again nominated in the Best Seafood category in the 2014 King 5 Best of Western Washington. Furthermore, a placard proudly proclaims that the fishing boat Golden Alaska catches and flash-freezes 50,000 pounds of arctic cod for Wally’s every year, which works out to be about 135 pounds daily. With this much brouhaha, why have I not heard of this place before?

On the specials board was fried razor clams, which gave us pause. But we were here to sample the fish and chowder, the two menu items that put Wally’s in the hearts and minds of followers.

The New England clam chowder (☆☆☆) could not have had better flavor but it was excessively thick. So much flour could almost have held up a spoon without moving.

New England clam chowder

New England clam chowder

On the recommendation of a couple of diners who were in our party, my wife and I split a one-piece large fillet with fries. When it arrived, I saw it was good advice. You can also order 2-, 3- or 6-piece quantities. There was likewise a good-sized portion of fries. It made no difference that they were in fact bottomless, because they were mealy (☆☆). Neither were we impressed with the fish (☆☆). It was dry and rubbery. I’ve never been fond of fish that had been previously frozen because it cooks, well, dry and rubbery. In addition, there was no discernible seasoning; the fish tasted flat. It might’ve been wiser to get the fresh local ling cod or halibut. We wondered what the fuss was all about regarding Wally’s. We won’t be returning.

Arctic cod fish n' chips

Arctic cod fish n’ chips

Wally’s Chowder House
22531 Marine View Dr S
Des Moines, Washington
(206) 878-8140

Food Truck: Fish Basket


Among the benefits of having a dog is taking it on its daily walk. I might grumble about having to do this every day, but once I’m out on the sidewalk or on the dog-friendly trail, it isn’t so bad. On rain-free, crisp mornings, the walks can be exhilarating. The exercise, so I tell myself, profits me more than sitting on my fanny, which I’m inclined to do at home, all the more in my retirement. Luckily, I realize that I’m only dog-sitting for my daughter and that she will be home in a few days to reclaim her doggie.

Another benefit of walking the dog are noticing things you wouldn’t otherwise. One of these things, it so happens, was spotting a food truck that was pulling into the parking lot of Datasphere Technologies, across the street from Spiritridge Park in Bellevue, where my wife and I commence our dog walk. Today, Fish Basket was selling its fish tacos, fried seafood and chowder.

Fried seafood includes cod, salmon, halibut, shrimp, clams and calamari, each with a side of either chips or slaw. The cod ($8) is the best fish value as the salmon and halibut set you back $1 and $3.75 more, respectively, for two pieces of fish (and side). The batter is thinly applied (my preference) on fish that needed more seasoning and freedom from the freezer that dried out its flesh (☆☆½). On the other hand, the fries were deliciously seasoned with paprika and other spices and coated with perhaps a thin layer of cornstarch batter that gave them a nice crispiness. The tartar sauce deserves special mention. It’s homemade, tarter than most with more dill pickles. Foil packages of malt vinegar and hot sauce are available in containers at the cashier.

Cod and chips

Cod and chips

Whenever we have the opportunity, we get fried clams. Today was no exception. Generously-sized clam strips were coated in super-crispy cornmeal batter (☆☆☆½). The clam flavor was robust and cried out to be tasted again in the near future.

Clams and chips

Clams and chips

Most of the positive reviews center on Fish Basket’s tacos, which are listed first on the menu. They will be next on our “try” list along with clam chowder. But, we’d be hard pressed to pass up the clams.

With the concentration of high-tech companies in the Eastgate area with generously-sized parking lots, it was inevitable that food trucks would be contracted to service their employees. I’m just beginning to identify where these spots are, but there are at least three of them. Over time, I imagine the popularity and frequency will steadily grow to the point where employees working at these high tech companies will be awash in food trucks, or is that just a pipe dream of mine? Fish Basket is a good start.

Fried Fish from Coppell Place Seafoods (Christchurch, NZ)


coppell_seafoods

Ask a bunch of Kiwis where they enjoy their favorite fish and chips and you’re likely to get a range of opinions, so ubiquitous is this kind of shop throughout New Zealand. As an aside, an odd fact in New Zealand and Australia is that hamburgers are often sold in fish and chip shops, too. After asking around among friends, our daughter’s family has started going to Coppell Place Seafoods, about 5km from their home, a small takeout (takeaway, as it’s called in New Zed and elsewhere) that isn’t much to look at from the outside. Though many items are on the fry menu, including donuts, the fish is what customers usually order. The most popular is likely the first fish listed on the menu, akaroa cod, enormous pieces that are over a foot long. Fish can be ordered either crumbed or battered.

Since Coppell is takeout only, much depends on maintaining quality when transported home, and their’s delivers. Wrapping the fish in newsprint paper helps. Even 45 minutes later when we sat down at the table, we dove into the fish, even our young grandson (not yet 4 years old) who devoured almost a single foot-long piece himself. The fish was mild, moist and flaky. There is a specialness about the crumbed coating, crispy, almost crunchy, and nicely seasoned. It also clung to the fish without falling off in pieces, culinary sleight-of-hand that makes you wonder how Coppell’s does it. The frying oil itself may not have been the freshest, registering an off-odor in the car on the drive home, but that was something I didn’t want to think about too much.

My wife and I both agree that the fried fish here is among the best we’ve had (☆☆☆☆). My grandson thinks so, too.

Fried akaroa cod

Fried akaroa cod with crumbed batter

Coppell Seafoods
3 Coppell Place
Hillmorton 8025
Christchurch, NZ
03-338 5440